Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on Thursday endorsed Jessica Cisneros' campaign to oust Rep. Henry Cuellar, a right-wing Democrat whose Texas home and office were raided this week as part of a sweeping federal investigation related to Azerbaijan and U.S. businessmen.
In an email, Ocasio-Cortez's (D-N.Y.) team pointed to reporting that "the Department of Justice's Public Integrity unit is involved with the investigation—a unit that handles cases involving elected officials including campaign finance and corruption cases."
"We don't know what this investigation may mean for this race, but we do know that Cuellar's campaign still has $2.3 million in the bank," the New York Democrat's campaign noted. "If we can't close the gap, Jessica could be outspent dramatically."
Ocasio-Cortez's endorsement of Cisneros—an immigration attorney and an outspoken supporter of Medicare for All and a Green New Deal—comes less than two months out from the Democratic primary in Texas' 28th Congressional District, a rematch of the 2020 contest that Cuellar narrowly won with the help of copious dark money and a boost from the Democratic establishment.
"Cuellar, the last anti-choice 'Democrat' in the House... had a 70% voting record of siding with Donald Trump" before Cisneros challenged him in 2020, Ocasio-Cortez's campaign team noted Thursday. "Last cycle, Jessica was massively outspent, but only lost by about 2,700 votes—a gap that can easily be closed with your support. We have a real opportunity to expand progressive leadership in Congress by electing Jessica this year."
According to ABC News, the FBI's search of Cuellar's home in Laredo, Texas as well as his campaign office was carried out Wednesday "as part of a wide-ranging federal probe relating to the former Soviet state of Azerbaijan and several U.S. businessmen."
"A federal grand jury in Washington is investigating the matter, but it's unclear if Cuellar is a target of the grand jury's probe," ABC reported.
News of the investigation—with which Cuellar has vowed to fully cooperate—drew fresh attention to the upcoming Texas primary contest and to Cisneros' progressive campaign.
"Been getting a lot of new followers tonight!" Cisneros tweeted following reports of the FBI raid.
Julián Castro, the former mayor of San Antonio, wrote on social media Thursday that "Rep. Cuellar is entitled to a presumption of innocence of any wrongdoing."
"But the working families of TX-28 who need a champion in Congress," he added, "can't risk losing a Democratic seat because the incumbent is under a cloud of suspicion."
Trump thought Ginni Thomas was ‘a wacko’ — but humored her as he wanted her husband to retire: report
The wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas was the focus of an exposé by Jane Mayer in The New Yorker titled, "Is Ginni Thomas a Threat to the Supreme Court?"
"The claim that the Justices’ opinions are politically neutral is becoming increasingly hard to accept, especially from Thomas, whose wife, Virginia (Ginni) Thomas, is a vocal right-wing activist. She has declared that America is in existential danger because of the “deep state” and the “fascist left,” which includes “transsexual fascists.” Thomas, a lawyer who runs a small political-lobbying firm, Liberty Consulting, has become a prominent member of various hard-line groups," Mayer reported. "Ginni Thomas has held so many leadership or advisory positions at conservative pressure groups that it’s hard to keep track of them. And many, if not all, of these groups have been involved in cases that have come before her husband."
Mayer noted the role of Center for Security Policy founder Frank Gaffney, who is described as a "notorious Islamophobe" by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
"Leaked documents show that Gaffney was a colleague of Ginni Thomas’s at Groundswell as far back as 2013. Gaffney was a proponent of Trump’s reactionary immigration policies, including, most vociferously, of the Administration’s Muslim travel ban. As these restrictions were hit by lawsuits, Gaffney’s nonprofit, the Center for Security Policy, signed the first of two big contracts with Liberty Consulting. According to documents that Gaffney’s group filed with the I.R.S., in 2017 and 2018 it paid Ginni Thomas a total of more than two hundred thousand dollars," Mayer reported.
Thomas awarded Gaffney one of her "Impact Awards."
The Trump administration finally agreed to have Ginni Thomas bring Gaffney to the White House.
"The White House meeting was held in the Roosevelt Room, and by all accounts it was uncomfortable. Thomas opened by saying that she didn’t trust everyone in the room, then pressed Trump to purge his Administration of disloyal members of the 'deep state,' handing him an enemies list that she and Groundswell had compiled," Mayer reported. "One participant told me he’d heard that Trump had wanted to humor Ginni Thomas because he was hoping to talk her husband into retiring, thus opening up another Court seat. Trump, given his manifold legal problems, also saw Justice Thomas as a potentially important ally—and genuinely liked him. But the participant told me that the President considered Ginni Thomas 'a wacko,' adding, 'She never would have been there if not for Clarence. She had access because her last name was Thomas'"
Read the full report.
The Taliban's religious police have threatened to shoot women NGO workers in a northwestern province of Afghanistan if they do not wear the all-covering burqa, two staff members told AFP.
The rights of Afghans -- particularly women and girls -- have been increasingly curtailed since the Taliban returned to power in August after ousting the US-backed government.
Women are being squeezed from public life and largely barred from government jobs, while most secondary schools for girls are shut.
Two international NGO workers in rural Badghis province told AFP that the local branch of the feared Ministry for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice met with aid groups on Sunday.
"They told us... if women staff come to the office without wearing the burqa, they will shoot them," one said, asking not to be named for safety reasons.
Women must also be accompanied to work by a male guardian, he added.
A second NGO source confirmed the warnings.
"They also said they will come to every office without prior notice to check the rules are being followed," he told AFP.
A notice to NGOs seen by AFP did not mention the threat of shooting, but did order women to cover up.
Women in deeply conservative Afghanistan generally cover their hair with scarves anyway, while the burqa –- mandatory under the Taliban's first regime, from 1996 to 2001 –- is still widely worn, particularly outside the capital Kabul.
Desperate for international recognition to unlock frozen assets, the Taliban have largely refrained from issuing national policies that provoke outrage abroad.
Provincial officials, however, have issued various guidelines and edicts based on local interpretations of Islamic law and Afghan custom.
In Kabul earlier this month, posters were slapped on cafes and shops ordering Afghan women to cover up, illustrated with an image of the burqa.
Women are banned from appearing in television dramas and must be accompanied by a male guardian on journeys between towns and cities.
Small and scattered protests have broken out demanding women's rights, which had improved slightly over the past 20 years in the patriarchal Muslim nation.
However, several activists told AFP they had gone into hiding in the capital this week after a series of raids led to the arrests of three women.
© 2022 AFP